Reports Show Economic Potential of a New Maine National Park

This page summarizes two longer reports: “A Comparative Analysis of the Economies of Peer Counties with National Parks and Recreation Areas to Penobscot and Piscataquis Counties, Maine” and “The Regional Economy of Penobscot and Piscataquis Counties, Maine and a Potential National Park and Recreation Area.”

[Note: This region was designated the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in 2016.]

Summary Findings

Elliotsville Plantation, Inc. is considering a donation of land to create a National Park and recreation area, along with an endowment for maintenance in the Katahdin Region of Maine. The lands in question are on the eastern edge of Baxter State Park along the East Branch of the Penobscot River. Headwaters Economics conducted this economic analysis under the assumption that there would be up to 150,000 acres of land donated to the National Park Service, of which 75,000 acres would be in a National Park (NP) and 75,000 acres would be in a National Recreation Area (NRA).

A review of other areas similar to the two-county study region — Penobscot and Piscataquis counties — in northern Maine that already have a National Park and NRA combination found that these areas consistently outperform Penobscot and Piscataquis counties (as well as the U.S. as a whole) across a range of economic performance measures. These regions have capitalized on visitation, non-local spending, and related job impacts to grow and diversify their economies, including sectors that pay above average wages.

This assessment of the potential costs and benefits of a new National Park and recreation area found little evidence of an economic downside, including to the forest products industry. On the other hand, there is evidence pointing to economic opportunities: new travel and tourism activity; the ability to attract people, retirees, and businesses across a range of sectors; economic growth including higher-wage jobs; and increases in non-labor sources of income.

Ben Alexander

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Kelly Pohl